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by ARLnow.com — October 31, 2014 at 6:30 pm 2,558 0

The following letter to the editor was submitted by local resident Bobbie Fisher.

Fisher also wrote about the intersection of race and Arlington politics in a letter to the editor in the Sun Gazette last year.

Last April, high-profiled Democrats like Libby Garvery, Theo Stamos, Peter Rousselot, Frank Thomas and loyal grassroot voters REJECTED Democratic nominee Alan Howze, who “lost badly” by 3,500 votes to Republican John Vihstadt for the County Board seat. The Sun Gazette quoted the Arlington County Democratic Committee chairman:

“We certainly lost. We lost badly on Tuesday,” said Kip Malinosky, chairman of the Arlington County Democratic Party. “We need to do much more to listen, much more to engage, much more to rebuild the trust that has eroded over the years.”

ACDC Chair Malinosky just doesn’t get it! The County’s white leadership has never bothered to “engage” nor “listen” to the issues of Black voters: jobs, minority students trapped in poor performing schools; gentrification of Nauck neighborhood; affordable housing, and the under representation of black-owned businesses.

What has ACDC done for Black voters? As an African American, homeowner and taxpayer there’s never been any open up discussion about the County’s racial disparities. For decades, Arlington County continue to exclude African Americans from elected public office and at senior-level positions in government.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) recently released her new book who is no fan of Arlington. “We lived in a soulless suburb. It wasn’t the right place for us, and we needed a change,” she wrote.

Here’s why Arlington remains a “soulless suburb.”

Barbara Donellan, first female County Manager resides in Fairfax County — not in Arlington! Worse, Ms. Donellan has 19 senior-level leaders who report directly to her. No African-American male or female is employed on Ms. Donellan’s senior-level staff.

This year, four highly qualified African-American Democrats were on the local ballot for public office: Bill Euille (three-term mayor of Alexandria); Charniele Herring; Lavern Chatman and Atima Omara-Alwala. All lost! Not a single black candidate won any support from ACDC, or any significant white votes in Arlington.

Alan Howze,”consistently talked about the need to support our educators and address the overcrowding challenges we face.” Yet, avoids discussing declining SOL grades at Drew School, where he attended as a child. Howze is silent on the growing achievement gap among minority children. In 2013, Drew ranked worse than 80.5% of elementary schools in Virginia.

John Vihstadt may ask tough questions about spending priorities, yet ignores discussing the County’s racial disparities in senior-level positions in government.

So, why should African American residents vote for candidates who ignore the concerns of black voters? Fifty years ago, Arlington County was wrong on racial segregation. Fifty years later African-Americans remain excluded from County politics and in government.

In 1984 Evelyn Reid Syphax, a former Arlington elementary school teacher who served extensively on a variety of elected and appointed boards for schools and civic and community organizations, was often identified as “the only black member of the school board.” Syphax was quoted in the Washington Post: “We have not arrived if I still have to have that distinction.”

In 2014, thirty years later, Ms. Syphax words rings true today, “We have not arrived.”

On Election Day, November 4, Black voters need to stand up to both Democrats and Republicans and demand: “no seat at the table – No Votes!!”

Bobbie Fisher
Pentagon City

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes letters to the editor about local issues. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to arlingtonnews@gmail.com. Letters to the editor may be edited for content and brevity.

by ARLnow.com — October 30, 2014 at 3:00 pm 697 0

Micah EdmondThis month, we asked the candidates from each competitive race on the ballot on Election Day to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them on Nov. 4.

Here is Republican candidate for the 8th Congressional District Micah Edmond’s unedited response: 

The congressional race in the 8th District to replace Jim Moran should be about your priorities and your future. You deserve a candidate that spends no time attacking anyone else, no time talking about their political party and no time looking backwards. Instead, you deserve a candidate that talks about an inclusive future. That’s specifically why I didn’t put a political party label on my campaign literature. I believe all that mattered was telling you my vision, my priorities, and my plan to achieve those priorities.

I believe leaders rise above party and should be measured by results rather than popularity or polls. While leaders should have common principles and values rooted in organizations like political parties, they should be willing to abandon party orthodoxy when it pushes for all or nothing extremes over a willingness to compromise on bi-partisan, practical solutions that achieve progress.

I got into this race last year because I was tired of partisanship that blocked results in Congress on both sides of the aisle. Both were willing to accept sequestration as a partisan political issue to campaign on in the mid-term elections rather than embrace a bi-partisan compromises like the President’s Simpson-Bowles Commission and Congress’ Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, both of which I was happy to serve on as a senior advisor. The failure to enact these compromises proves that while we have real, bi-partisan solutions, we lack real leaders willing to compromise and enact them.

So here is why I would like your vote.

  1. My vision — I want to make the American Dream achievable again for all people. I want to move past short-term fixes and enact annual budgets that control spending while making investments in our collective national and economic security.  Fiscal conservatism and investments in the future are not mutually exclusive. I believe both are necessary to ensure we don’t mortgage away our future.
  2. Priorities — I want to enact a long-term budget that grows the economy and creates jobs by making regular investments in education, infrastructure and our national defense. I want immediate immigration reforms that transition un-documented workers into a legal status but does not include citizenship. And I want immediate changes that make healthcare more affordable and portable.
  3. Plan — I favor a 10-year budget plan along the lines of Simpson- Bowles. My plan achieves a 2:1 ratio of cuts to new revenue raised, balances the budget in 5 years and retires a third of the national debt in 10 years. My plan achieves this through four areas: (1) Tax relief for the middle class and small businesses, (2) Tax reform that closes corporate welfare loopholes and ends tax incentives that don’t focus on job creation, small business ownership, education, home ownership and research and development, (3) Entitlement reform that grandfathers the benefits for seniors and veterans either receiving or within a few years of receiving benefits while also enacting changes for all others that reflect the realities of a new labor force including life expectancy and recruiting and retention differences and (4) Enacting a 5-10% cut in federal discretionary spending over ten years that abandons sequestration in favor of allowing agency experts the flexibility to impose cuts.

I would be proud to have your vote and represent the whole 8th district. I have continued to make my campaign forward looking and inclusive. With your support, you can trust me to bring a new vision, a new voice and a new energy to making the American Dream achievable again for all people.

Please visit www.micahedmond.com for more information, or email me at micah@micahedmond.com.

by ARLnow.com — October 30, 2014 at 2:30 pm 1,019 0

Jeffrey CarsonThis month, we asked the candidates from each competitive race on the ballot on Election Day to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them on Nov. 4.

Here is Libertarian candidate for the 8th Congressional District Jeffrey Carson’s unedited response: 

Simply put, you should vote for me because it’s in your best interest to do so.

(But you’re a Libertarian! Aren’t all Libertarians kooks?)

Let’s take a look at the issues, shall we? Let’s take a look at where we might see eye-to-eye. My guess is we’re going to agree on a whole lot more than you think.

Do we agree that it’s wrong to steal from future generations to pay for things today we can’t afford? Do we agree that our $17.9 trillion in debt is a problem we can’t continue to pretend doesn’t exist? Do we agree that it’s about time Congress got its act together and ran a balanced budget?

Do we agree that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and that it’s wrong to print $ trillions out of thin air and hand it over to Wall Street in order to enrich the 1 percent at the expense of the 99 percent? Do we agree that it’s time we eliminated all forms of corporate welfare, and that the federal government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers or doling out favors to this industry or that one?

Do we agree that we shouldn’t constantly be picking fights around every corner of the globe, that putting our service members’ lives at risk for yet another war in the Middle East is not a good idea, and that (high-level) a foreign policy of non-interventionism — by way of free trade, smart diplomacy, and honest friendship — might just be the best way to go?

Do we agree that having the highest incarceration rate in the entire world is not something we Americans should be particularly proud of, and that it’s about time we stopped putting people in prison for using a substance? Do we agree that we should be treating drug use — and in particular, drug abuse — as a public health issue instead of a criminal one? Do we agree that the practice of civil asset forfeiture is about as unconstitutional as it gets and needs to be stopped immediately?

Do we agree that we shouldn’t have to worry about being spied upon by our own government? Do we agree that Benjamin Franklin was right when he said: “Those that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”?

Do we agree that when it comes to our children’s education, parents, teachers, principals, school boards, and local communities should have (much) more of a say than Washington bureaucrats and labor unions?

Do we agree that the opportunity for a better life — the American Dream — should be available to those honest, hardworking people around the world who would choose to come to this great country to pursue it?

Do we agree that individuals and families tend to make better decisions than lobbyists and bureaucrats when it comes to our personal lives and financial affairs?

I’m betting we agree on a whole heck of a lot.

Einstein once said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”

If you’re concerned about the direction our country is headed — as I am — and if you want to see meaningful change in Washington — as I do — maybe it’s time you tried something new at the ballot box. Maybe it’s time you voted for a Libertarian.

I really am one of the good guys, folks, and I need your help. I’m asking for your support. I’m asking for your vote. I’m asking you to help me restore some sanity to Washington.

by ARLnow.com — October 30, 2014 at 2:00 pm 703 0

Don BeyerThis month, we asked the candidates from each competitive race on the ballot on Election Day to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them on Nov. 4.

Here is Democratic candidate for the 8th Congressional District Don Beyer’s unedited response: 

I was taught growing up that we are each put on this earth to build something larger than ourselves and to serve others. It is with this in mind that I am a candidate for Congress.

I have a proven record on many issues and across many interest groups. And if elected, I will work diligently with constituents and fellow members of Congress to make principled, constructive progress locally, nationally and internationally.

I have been a businessman in Northern Virginia for 40 years, and led the transition team for President Obama at the Department of Commerce. I was Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor for two terms and President Obama’s ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein for four years. I have a long record as a leader in many community nonprofit organizations as well. And I am also the father of four and a grandfather of two.

I want to take all of these experiences to the House of Representatives and, with your help, be an agent for change on the issues that matter most.

I will push for a progressive carbon tax, because I believe climate change is the existential crisis of our time. When I was ambassador, I authorized a carbon footprint assessment of the U.S. embassy, which was a first for a U.S. embassy. Then we reduced it by 40 percent. As a lifelong hiker who has hiked half of the Appalachian Trail and aspires to complete it, I will do all I can to enhance and protect our green spaces in this urban and suburban congressional district.

I will work for gun safety and stand up to the NRA, so that we can put an end to the plague of gun violence. I want to enact reasonable legislation like enhanced background checks, closing the gun show loophole, and banning high capacity magazines. I am stunned that, in the wake of so many gun deaths and tragedies, our country still has not passed such basic measures.

I will always fight for reproductive rights and to keep the government out of personal decisions. As Lieutenant Governor, I blocked parental consent bills dozens of times and I will continue that record in Congress.

I will be an advocate for federal employees, who have borne too much of the country’s budget struggles. We need to make sure they receive the pay increases they are due and get respect, rather than disdain, for their service to the public.

I will apply my business acumen and credentials toward raising the minimum wage and helping the local, as well as the broader Virginia and U.S. economies. Too many working families are falling behind. The middle class is shrinking as the gap between the wealthiest and the poor is growing. I want to do all I can to help these families.

I have spent countless hours volunteering for local and state nonprofits, and the experience informs my understanding of the needs of the most vulnerable in our region. For fourteen years, I chaired Jobs for Virginia Graduates, the state’s most successful high school dropout prevention program. I also spent nearly a decade on the board of the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. And I was president for three years of Youth for Tomorrow, Joe Gibbs’ home for troubled adolescents.

Our nation was founded with the ideal that everyone deserves a fair chance. This means equal pay for equal work, the right to love whom you choose to love without discrimination, and immigration laws that keep alive the American dream. My years of service abroad representing our country inspire me to fight for the freedoms and rights that make our diverse country great.

I am honored to be your Democratic nominee. I hope to have the opportunity to fight for you in Congress. I ask for your vote in the November 4th congressional election.

by ARLnow.com — October 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm 968 0

Gwendolyn Beck

This month, we asked the candidates from each competitive race on the ballot on Election Day to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them on Nov. 4.

Here is Independent candidate for the 8th Congressional District Gwendolyn Beck’s unedited response: 

If you disapprove of Congress, vote for me, Gwendolyn Beck. There are no Independents in the U.S. House of Representatives, and this is the only way to break the dysfunctional gridlock of the two-party system. I am only beholden to you!

I am fiscally responsible, socially inclusive and believe we need a strong national defense. Fiscally responsible means knowing our economic and social policies affect our future and determine our individual and cultural prosperity. We have plenty of money, we just don’t always use it in the right way. Socially inclusive means that everyone matters and should be treated with respect. I will continue to fight for women’s rights, especially our right to choose what is best for our own bodies and for pay equality. I will fight for marriage equality and acceptance of the joy in loving whomever you choose. And, we need a strong defense to ensure we influence the world, rather than the world influencing us.

Running a country as large as the United States of America is complex and it takes many people to successfully accomplish not only defining goals, but putting them into action in a way the makes sense to all of our citizens. As everyone agrees, Congress is broken. We can’t go on like this, and the only way I see to build badly needed coalitions is to not be beholden to one of the two very powerful political parties. If you vote for a Democrat or Republican, no matter how good their resume looks, the dysfunction and gridlock will continue.

Badly needed coalitions can be built, and my campaign has already accomplished this goal as we are made up of disappointed Democrats, moderate Republicans and “middle minded” Independents working together and working hard to achieve our main goal: doing what is right for America.

I strongly believe we need to stop trying balance our budget on the backs of our students, federal workers, military, especially the retirees as a “Promise is a Promise” and pensions should be sacred. We need to focus on solutions to our environment that are cutting-edge, like Fuel Cell Vehicles that have zero emissions and energy storage solutions to enable solar and wind power to flourish [my Democrat opponent says we should tax carbon (to my relief he'll add "emissions" once in a while), but this is an old concept and only the beginning of fixing the problems our planet faces]. We need to fix the Affordable Care Act, immigration, and the tax code. We need to create quality jobs and ensure an excellent education is available to our youth.

As a business woman, I have had two successful careers, one in the financial industry and one in tourism. I rose to Manager of National Sales at Eastern Airlines, and when they ceased operations, moved into Finance in U.S. Government Debt — I understand how our debt works. I’ve written a consumer financial education book and appeared on PBS and Lifetime. I volunteer for the Arlington Agency on Aging, am on the Board of Directors for “Ladies America” and “We Will Survive Cancer.” Our congressional campaign color is “hot pink” to promote cancer awareness. I am a first-generation American on my mother’s side, and about fifth-generation American on my father’s side.

I want you to vote for me because you agree a we don’t have to continue on this downward spiral. I want you to vote for me because you agree America can be a better place. And, I want you to vote for me because there is no other way to accomplish change than to send an Independent to the U.S. House of Representatives. Money doesn’t vote: people vote! Virginia, please take a chance on me.

by ARLnow.com — October 30, 2014 at 1:00 pm 1,685 0

John Vihstadt debates at the Arlington Civic federation on Sept. 2, 2014This month, we asked the candidates from each competitive race on the ballot on Election Day to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them on Nov. 4.

Here is Republican-endorsed Independent County Board member John Vihstadt’s unedited response:

Dear Fellow Arlingtonian:

Last April, Arlington voters had a real choice at the polls — for a change. Two major candidates; two futures.

Option One: Business as usual.

Option Two: A little balance; an Independent voice.

Independence won.

Thanks to our fusion campaign and unprecedented support from reform-minded Democrats, Republicans, Greens, and Independents, 57 percent of Arlington voters elected me as an Independent voice on the otherwise one party County Board.  I now seek your vote for a full four year term.

I’m keeping my commitments to you pledged when I first announced my Independent candidacy:

Leveraging My Record. I’m leveraging my 30 years of community service and consensus-building in our public schools, our neighborhoods and across the County to work for everyone.

My record of leadership and alliances as a school bond co-chair, PTA president, in the Civic Federation, on County commissions and on nonprofit boards has provided a firm foundation for immediate effectiveness. I have spoken up where change is needed, while working cooperatively with my colleagues on both the County Board and School Board to build upon what is great about Arlington. I continue to approach every issue in a fair, nonpartisan, pragmatic fashion.

Stressing Shared Priorities. Arlington is at a crossroads. Yes, we must continue to invest in our communities for the long haul, but our tax dollars are not unlimited. There are costs and trade-offs. We cannot say yes to everything, especially all at once.  When we try to make everything a priority, nothing is truly a priority.

My positive vision focuses on assigning priority to long-term, fiscally responsible, sustainable investments in our over-crowded public schools, public safety, infrastructure maintenance, Metro, bus rapid transit and neighborhood quality of life — the true measures of community success — not wasteful and extravagant projects like a $500 million dollar streetcar that will run largely in mixed traffic, million dollar bus stops, an over-budget aquatics center the County still wants to build, or another over-the-top dog park.

Despite the red flag of the DC streetcar fiasco on H Street, the County presses ahead with consulting and engineering contracts and a massive taxpayer-financed PR campaign designed to swing public opinion, while, at the same time, refusing to allow a public vote. Though my Democratic colleague Libby Garvey and I have not yet stopped the streetcar, it is far from a “done deal.” There will be more votes on more contracts and another election next year. Until then, my election is the only referendum available to speak out on this folly.

There has been recent debate about “public land for public good.” I believe that Arlington’s 149 parks and our many recreation centers are the very essence of “public land for public good.”  It is counterproductive to locate housing, schools, or other non-parks and non-recreation-related development on increasingly precious parkland and recreational sites. We must better assess how our development decisions are impacting our parks and playing fields, as well as our schools, infrastructure and the diversity and character of our neighborhoods.

My Independent Advantage. I’m providing balance, accountability and a fresh perspective on a County Board that needs another voice, and that must listen to, and account for, a full range of community opinion. I’m asking questions at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, not just nodding my head.

I’m still pushing for a truly independent County auditor to ensure our money is well-spent, and I’ve asked why over 450 employees have a County credit card. I’ve asked why developers contribute to everything BUT to our schools to help handle the families they bring. I’ve made sure we actually debate the streetcar at the Board table, and I’m the only Board member who has spoken up for car sharing services like Uber to operate in Arlington. Finally, we must work with all communities earlier and more transparently on issues ranging from the location of schools and fire stations to neighborhood streets and sidewalks.

Raising issues and questioning authority is not divisive. Lively debate and the exchange of ideas is not wrong. It’s responsible government. And in my view, it’s essential to ensure that Arlington reaches its full potential — for everyone.

Your vote counts, and I need it once more to continue the discussion and results so critical to our collective future — now and after November 4. Please join people from every neighborhood and political party in casting it for me. Visit www.VoteForVihstadt.com to learn more.

Yours for an even better Arlington,

John Vihstadt – Independent

Arlington County Board

by ARLnow.com — October 30, 2014 at 12:30 pm 1,239 0

Alan Howze debates at the Arlington Civic federation on Sept. 2, 2014This month, we asked the candidates from each competitive race on the ballot on Election Day to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them on Nov. 4.

Here is Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze’s unedited response:

On November 4th, your vote will help define Arlington’s future. The election is about choosing a vision for our community and the leadership we need as we confront decisions that will affect our county for generations to come.

I am running to bring a new voice to the County Board and new ideas for how to move Arlington forward.

By many measures our community is thriving — with great schools, vibrant neighborhoods, high-quality transit that makes Arlington such an attractive place to live and work.

However, we also face challenges. We need to move quickly to address school overcrowding, strengthen our local economy, focus on affordability, and provide parks and recreational space for residents.

I will bring my experience in business and government to addressing these needs in a fiscally responsible manner that brings the community together without resorting to the politics of division or obstruction.

I represent a new generation of Democratic leadership and I bring a different perspective.

As we address school overcrowding, I would be the only County Board member with children in our schools.

In a county where 60% of all residents are between the ages of 20-50, I would be the only Board member under 55 years of age.

I would bring to the Board my business experience as we address our rising commercial vacancy rate.

Moreover, I am proud to run as a Democrat on a ticket with Senator Mark Warner, who I worked for when he was Governor of Virginia. Our team of Democratic candidates share a commitment to opportunity, equality and prosperity — and to progress, not obstruction.

In contrast, my opponent, who claims to be an Independent, is a lifelong Republican. He actively sought — and received — the endorsement of the Arlington GOP. He has been an active Republican volunteer and has given thousands to anti-choice and anti-environment Republican candidates. His campaign has been funded primarily by Republican donors. Republicans are not supporting an independent voice, but rather attempting to move Arlington away from its progressive principles.

To move our community forward, I am putting my Democratic values and my experience in business and government into action through specific proposals to address key issues in our community:

Contrast these detailed plans with my opponent, who has offered no vision for addressing our community’s challenges and has engaged in obstruction instead. Putting politics ahead of the community’s best interests, he voted AGAINST funding to address school overcrowding, to maintain the Metro system, and for our parks.

He even proposes sending $150M in transportation funds back to Richmond rather than using it here in Arlington to improve our economy and quality of life.  That is not the leadership we need.

I am ready to deliver innovative, community-based solutions that reflect all our community’s needs and interests. I will not always agree with my fellow Democrats, but I will push hard for real solutions and work to bring our community together without stoking divisiveness.

I will demand accountability and focus on fiscal responsibility, much as I did on the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission where I called in 2013 for a $6.4M tax cut and created a plan to maintain our parks and facilities. I will also support private sector innovation through public investments like ConnectArlington and market innovators such as Uber and Lyft.

I have spent months knocking on thousands of doors and listening to voters like you talk about the issues and the solutions that will help move Arlington forward.

My innovative ideas and hard work have earned the endorsement of the Sierra Club and the endorsement of Arlington’s Educators. Visit my website to learn more.

If you are as impatient for solving Arlington’s challenges as I am, I ask for your vote on November 4th. Together we can fulfill a vision of a vibrant, safe, diverse and affordable community. Let’s get to work.

by ARLnow.com — October 30, 2014 at 12:00 pm 533 0

Barbara Kanninen in the 4/22/14 School Board debateThis month, we asked the candidates from each competitive race on the ballot on Election Day to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them on Nov. 4.

Here is School Board candidate Barbara Kanninen’s unedited response:

I am Barbara Kanninen, and I am running for Arlington County School Board because I believe that together we can make Arlington Public Schools the best that they can be.

Our schools and community face complicated issues right now, from meeting capacity needs, to budgeting, to achieving our most important goal: optimizing classroom learning and addressing the needs of our students. I bring an expansive set of experiences to the job of tackling these challenges. I have volunteered in schools and worked with children in Arlington and DC for over 20 years, and I have served on School Board and County Board advisory committees. I am a Ph.D environmental economist, children’s book author, and Democratic activist. These experiences have given me a deep familiarity with data analysis, hundreds of hours with kids and teachers, and a history of working at the community level on grassroots organizing and engagement. I will ask tough questions and dig deeply to find new, creative solutions to our budget and capacity challenges.

In the coming months and years, we’re going to have to make tough but important decisions. As we look ahead, here are my priorities for our schools:

  • Promote critical thinking over standardized testing.
    Our kids spend too much time in class prepping for and taking tests. Teachers tell me this takes too much time away from instruction. We need to take a hard look at the testing schedule and process to see which tests are essential to classroom learning.
  • Tackle overcrowding with strong leadership, constructive community engagement, and transparent decision-making.
    As we work to catch up with the growth in our school population, we need to create a long-term plan that considers instructional needs and programs first, work closely and collaboratively with the County Board and the community to consider the full array of potential school sites, improve community engagement to allow for true dialogue and transparency, and build a safety net of potential temporary solutions.
  • Give teachers the support they deserve.
    To create an environment in which every child can excel, teachers need support and resources. They also need the flexibility to adjust their teaching approach and pacing to their students’ needs as well as avenues for providing feedback to school principals and county administrators.
  • Support children with mentors.
    An adult mentor is a developmental asset that contributes to kids’ problem solving, self-esteem, and achievement. I’d like every student in Arlington to know that there is at least one adult in school who knows them, whom they can go to with problems, and who believes in them.
  • Continue investing in the arts and strengthen STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs.
    We should strengthen STEM skills through, for example, more hands-on science programs in all elementary schools and more accessible STEM programs across all schools, including the Arlington Career Center. At the same time, students need opportunities to express themselves creatively, so we need to give students at all levels access to a variety of art forms.
  • Be budget-minded by prioritizing funding for teachers and classroom learning.
    In this time of tight budgets, we need to be both disciplined and principled about spending decisions. My number-one principle is the need to focus on the day-to-day classroom experience and teacher-student relationships, so my budget priorities will be teachers and the resources they need.

This year, as part of my School Board campaign, I canvassed door-to-door in all 52 precincts in Arlington, engaging parents, teachers, and community activists and learning about our school issues neighborhood by neighborhood. These experiences have given me a holistic understanding of our diverse community. Collectively, we have the energy, the brains, and the will to do great things for our kids and our community. I’m excited about the possibilities, and I would be honored to have your vote.

by ARLnow.com — October 30, 2014 at 11:30 am 575 0

Audrey Clement at Civic Federation candidate forumThis month, we asked the candidates from each competitive race on the Nov. 4 ballot to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them.

Here is School Board candidate Audrey Clement’s unedited response:

I’m Audrey Clement. I’m running for ARLINGTON SCHOOL BOARD, and I seek your vote. Democratic candidates for local office recently issued a press release promising to deal with Arlington’s enrollment crisis.

But Arlington Public Schools (APS) will not be able to meet the challenge under its recently adopted capital budget, as it projects a 2,500 seat deficit even AFTER spending hundreds of millions of dollars to produce 4,000 additional seats.

To address the crisis, School Board ought to ask the Superintendent some hard questions:

  • Why does it cost Arlington $2 million to build a new classroom, when it costs Alexandria $900,000?
  • Why does it cost Arlington $50 million to provide a new elementary school when it costs Fairfax County $20 million?
  • Why does Arlington spend $5,000 more per pupil per year than Fairfax County?
  • Why are voters asked to approve a $105 million school bond without knowing how half the money is going to be spent?

Since eighty percent of the schools’ half-billion-dollar operating budget is funded by local taxes and nearly half of every local tax dollar you pay goes to it, Arlington County Board should ask some hard questions too.

  • Why, for example, has the School Board never addressed the 2012 the Virginia Department of Education report which concluded that APS administration is top heavy with eight assistant superintendents to Richmond’s three?
  • Why does Federal Graduation Indicator show lower graduation rates for disadvantaged students in Arlington than elsewhere in the state?

County Board member Mary Hynes cast these concerns aside at a recent County Board meeting, saying: “I caution about doing the straight math.” She pointed out that there’s a lot more to a school upgrade than new classrooms, and the high per pupil cost reflects community values. In other words, the School Board must continue business as usual because that’s what the community wants.

The problem with business as usual is that the County can no longer afford it. According to a recent Washington Post article, Arlington’s “office market has been in near free fall recently. Between 22 and 23 percent of all the office space in Arlington County — more than 8 million square feet — is vacant. That is nearly triple the rate in 2010.”

As vacancy rates rise commercial tax receipts will erode, forcing County Board to raise residential tax rates to pay for the bonds issued to expand classroom capacity.

Under these circumstances Arlington should elect an independent to School Board who will stretch our tax dollars.

As a 10-year Westover resident and long-time community activist, I routinely urge the County Board to invest in basic services like libraries and schools over wasteful capital projects. With a Ph.D. degree in Political Science and classroom experience as a college instructor, I also strongly support APS’s focus on academic excellence.

Having served the U.S. House subcommittee for congressional oversight of special education programs, I am a strong advocate of remedial education.

If elected, I will work with my School Board colleagues to streamline the budget and guarantee success for all Arlington students. I will also encourage input from the public before key decisions are made. Visit my web site at www.AudreyClement.org and vote CLEMENT on November 4.

by Mark Kelly — October 23, 2014 at 1:00 pm 891 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyThe Washington, D.C., streetcar is finally up and running in a limited, testing phase. According to this Washington Post story on the new line, it is not going so well.

It seems the first cars “running east of Union Station, have snarled traffic and been in two minor accidents.”

If you have ever driven on Columbia Pike during rush hour, you know traffic conditions will not be any better in Arlington with fixed rail cars running in the same lane as cars and buses.

Second, buses in D.C. are facing significant delays behind the streetcars, and are having to go around the streetcars to stay on schedule.

According to County plans, the Arlington streetcars will only supplement bus service, meaning our buses along the Pike will likely also have to navigate around the light rail. And, in not so good news for Arlington commuters, the streetcars may actually be even slower than buses at getting you to work. This does not include the time it takes you to get to the Pentagon if you need to catch a bus, as the the line will not go directly there.

Third, while D.C. planned to charge $1 or more per ride, “DDOT has determined that fares will not be collected at the start of revenue service.”

D.C. needs to entice riders since ridership is already projected to be “underwhelming” according to the story. Not that D.C. could charge a fare yet, they still don’t have the system in place to do so.

We were told that people would naturally want to ride the new streetcars along Columbia Pike, but communities across the country are having issues with paid ridership. The very real possibility exists that Arlingtonians will not only have to subsidize some portion of each ride forever, we may get to foot the whole bill (at least during a “rider attraction” phase). Of course, instituting a charge for a previously “free” service becomes more difficult later.

The bottom line is we can look across the river at what not to do. Supporters will probably say we can learn from their mistakes, but similar problems continue wherever this transit experiment has been tried.

Fortunately for us, we have only wasted a small percentage of the total cost thus far. We can still stop it. Two Columbia Pike streetcar proponents are on the ballot next year. The results of the Nov. 4 election may intensify the pressure on them to have a change of heart before it’s too late.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Alfonso Lopez — October 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm 691 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Alfonso LopezAs a member of Arlington’s General Assembly delegation and long-time resident of neighborhoods along Columbia Pike, I have been a strong advocate for implementation of the Columbia Pike Neighborhood Plan adopted after many years of planning and community involvement — a fundamental component of which is a modern streetcar system.

I am pleased that our governor, after receiving broad approval (nearly 72 percent) from Arlington voters as a candidate, has strongly supported key transit projects like the streetcar.

Virginia’s Transportation Secretary has repeatedly praised the streetcar as a sound example for leveraging transportation investments to enhance economic competitiveness, noting that implementation of a seamless streetcar system between Columbia Pike and Crystal City will provide significantly more mobility benefits than enhanced bus service.

Just this past week, Virginia’s Director of Rail and Public Transportation told the Washington Post that the state remains “fully committed” to providing $65 million from a state funding stream dedicated solely to fixed guideway rail projects. This brings the total state streetcar investment to more than $200 million.

Why is the Pike Neighborhood Plan and streetcar component important? It is how we will:

  • accommodate anticipated growth along Columbia Pike;
  • protect Pike neighborhoods and affordable housing units;
  • create important links to Crystal City/Pentagon City on one end of the Pike and Bailey’s Crossroads on the other;
  • create a “main street” feel with appropriately scaled buildings and dining/retail options;
  • provide street-level transit options for people to visit restaurants, libraries, community centers, shopping outlets, and office buildings;
  • and generate economic development and tax revenues we will need to build schools and acquire open space.

The streetcar system will not just create additional commuting options. It will foster livable and healthy communities with robust businesses, create destinations easily accessible to Arlingtonians and revenue-generating tourists, and improve our quality of life.

I am disappointed that the carefully-planned and long-needed investments along Columbia Pike are now being treated as a political football. That is why I oppose the Garvey-Vihstadt plan announced on ARLnow.com that would cause Arlington to forfeit millions of dollars of state funding.

And I am disappointed that the Garvey-Vihstadt plan would similarly renege on commitments that Arlington County has made to help revitalize Crystal City after the poorly-planned federal decision to move thousands of military jobs to Mark Center and Fort Belvoir with the attendant losses of many more private sector jobs.

In the name of saving some unspecified amount of money on the streetcar by using inferior bus service, the Garvey-Vihstadt plan suggests that we can instead fund major Metro improvements. That makes no financial sense.

The Metro expansion projects alluded to in the Garvey-Vihstadt plan would, according to the long-range strategic plan released last year by Metro, cost many billions of dollars — many times the streetcar’s cost. A new Rosslyn Metro station — $1 billion. A second Potomac tunnel — $3.3 billion. An Orange/Silver express track to a second Rosslyn Metro station — $2.3 billion.

These may all be worthy projects, but suggesting that even Arlington’s share of the cost would become feasible merely by killing the streetcar is irresponsible. (more…)

by Peter Rousselot — October 23, 2014 at 12:00 pm 1,026 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotI’m a proud Arlington Democrat. Like thousands of other Arlington Democrats, I will be voting on Nov. 4 to re-elect Independent John Vihstadt to the Arlington County Board.

On April 8, 57 percent of Arlington voters elected John as an independent voice on the Board. The other four Board members are Democrats. Having an Independent as one of the five Board members provides balance, oversight and accountability.

Reasons To Vote For Vihstadt

Thirty years of community activism and consensus-building

John’s record of public service and relationships built over three decades has provided a firm foundation for immediate effectiveness and accomplishment. This record shows him to be inclusive and open-minded.

Re-calibrating County Board spending priorities

John Vihstadt:

  • prioritizes long-term, cost-effective investments in our public schools, public safety, infrastructure maintenance and neighborhood quality of life;
  • opposes wasteful and extravagant projects like a $500 million streetcar, million dollar bus stops, a gold-plated aquatics center or another $1.6 million dog park.

Since Arlington already has the highest tax bills in Northern Virginia, setting priorities is essential.

Arlington’s current priorities have been set by a group of three long-term incumbent County Board members (Jay Fisette, Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes). They happen to be Democrats. Many of their priorities (streetcars, aquatics center, fancy dog parks) are wrong. Their wrong priorities are not core Democratic values.

By voting to re-elect John Vihstadt on Nov. 4, Arlington voters will send another strong message that we support John’s priorities and oppose these wasteful and extravagant projects.

Fresh perspective already making a difference

John has led the effort to hire an internal auditor to improve checks and balances. He will continue to advocate that the auditor report directly to the County Board, not the County Manager. He will work to ensure no backsliding in recent commitments to implement a fraud and abuse hotline and employee whistle blower protection. 

Conclusion

Some Arlington Democrats may be struggling with the decision to vote to re-elect John or vote for his Democratic opponent. I support John because being the Democratic candidate in this County Board election is not enough of a qualification.

Alan Howze lacks the stature to stand up to Fisette, Hynes, and Tejada, and to vote against their positions when he thinks they are wrong. Moreover, on major current and important issues, like the $500 million streetcar and spending at least $80 million on the Aquatics Center, he agrees with their positions.

You can read more about John Vihstadt’s extensive community service, the issues on which he is running, and his support from across the political spectrum here.

***

John Vihstadt deserves re-election to the County Board.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by ARLnow.com — October 17, 2014 at 4:30 pm 3,629 0

Metroway bus in Crystal City (Photo courtesy Donna Gouse)

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey.

What transportation projects should we fund in Arlington with the money we save from not building a streetcar?

This is an important question. John Vihstadt and I asked our staff exactly this question during a work session on the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) this summer. Our staff said they could provide a list if a majority of our Board colleagues voted to ask for it, but our three Board colleagues voted against it. So neither we, nor the public, has the benefit of staff’s expertise and analysis to answer this question.

We do know that the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcars are projected to cost over $500 million and consume about 19% of our Capital Improvement Program. We also know that these streetcars will require over $8 million and perhaps millions more per year in annual operating costs. We all should be wondering what could and should we do with this money instead.

If we reprogram those local and state dollars, here are some possibilities we might fund partially or fully:

1. Expand and improve the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in Crystal City so it operates more like a streetcar with side opening doors. Run it frequently and all the time. Connect it to the BRT line in Alexandria. Work with Fairfax and run BRT all the way down Route 1 to Fort Belvoir. Take the BRT line down the route planned for the streetcar on Columbia Pike, and take it into Annandale. Run a BRT line from Rosslyn out Lee Highway and work with Fairfax and Loudoun to take it all the way to Leesburg. Work with Montgomery County, Maryland and D.C. and take a BRT line from Arlington and the Pentagon to D.C. and on to Rockville or further. In other words, build a robust regional BRT service that people can depend on to get them where they want to go conveniently and efficiently.

2. Address the dangerous intersection at Lynn Street and Lee Highway at Key Bridge with a permanent and effective solution to protect pedestrians and cyclists. This likely means significant construction to rework the intersection. We could improve pedestrian and cyclist safety around the county at other places like East Falls Church.

3. Add much needed new Metro entrances at Rosslyn and Ballston.

4. Add a whole new Metro station in Rosslyn as called for in the Metro Momentum plan.

5. Pay for some of the huge capital costs Metro anticipates in their Metro Momentum capital improvement plan. While not detailed yet, this is a large expense that looms in the near future. Currently we have not planned how we will pay for it.

6. With the old bridges over the Potomac needing extensive reconstruction soon and the huge casino opening at Harbor Place the need for more ways to cross the river is clear. Transportation funds could be used for a new bridge, or tunnel or even dock facilities for a Potomac ferry service. A recent study showed a ferry to be economically viable. National Airport is a natural location for a dock. Besides millions of tourists arriving there each year, thousands of people commute to and from Ft. Belvoir and other military bases located on the river every day.

In sum, taxes will be lower and transportation better without a streetcar. There are many needed transportation improvements that will have to wait until we can raise taxes or get federal and state dollars to fund them if we waste over $500 million on a streetcar.

To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to arlingtonnews@gmail.com. Letters to the editor may be edited for content and brevity.

Photo courtesy Donna Gouse

by Peter Rousselot — October 16, 2014 at 1:30 pm 502 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotBarbara Kanninen is running for election to the Arlington School Board on November 4.

I endorse Barbara in this election.

PRIORITIES

Among the priorities Barbara will pursue as a School Board member are :

  • Promote critical thinking over standardized testing
  • Tackle overcrowding
  • Give teachers the respect and support they deserve
  • Support children with mentors
  • Continue investing in the arts and strengthen STEM
  • Be budget-minded

As I have written previously, both the School Board and the County Board need to recognize that they have limited resources. They need to focus our limited tax dollars on core services. For this reason, I am encouraged by Barbara’s focus on budget priorities.

Operating Budget

Barbara’s No. 1 principle is the need to focus on the day-to-day classroom experience and the importance of teacher-student relationships. Her budget priorities will be teachers and the resources they need. Barbara will look skeptically at other expenditures — such as consultant fees, new technologies, and the test-prep schedule — to assess whether they truly improve classroom learning.

Barbara also would like to see regular and transparent collaboration between the schools and Arlington County on a revenue-sharing agreement: the percentage of tax revenues that the County Board shares with the School Board. Our schools matter to everyone in the county, and Barbara would like to see a healthy community dialogue about the relative value of, for example, keeping our class sizes small compared to other county activities. Barbara does not discount the importance of county services, but rather wants to open up the discussion so that we can make the best decisions possible, given our limited resources.

Capital Budget

Barbara’s approach to capital budget planning is equally thoughtful. Around the community, her discussions about Arlington’s capital improvement program (CIP) have focused on three points:

  1. We need to start talking about potential, interim solutions as our overcrowding grows faster than we can build. Using community buildings (former schools) as temporary schools is one such option. Flexible scheduling is another.
  2. We need better and stronger school/county collaboration so that we can open up more spaces for potential schools. We also need a school/county master planning process to look at the long, long term.
  3. We need to improve our planning process on the school side. Most importantly, APS needs more transparency in its decision making.

Personal

I first met Barbara about 10 years ago when I was serving as a co-chair of the Advisory Council on Instruction and she was a first grade parent at Taylor Elementary. Ever since that time, Barbara has been actively involved in volunteer leadership positions in our schools.

***

Barbara Kanninen deserves election to the School Board.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Mark Kelly — October 16, 2014 at 12:45 pm 735 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark Kelly

If you have children in Arlington Public Schools and you have attended a back-to-school night for your elementary school student, you have probably heard about the way teachers are supposed to be grading students. A “C” grade is meeting expectations for grade level (See page 9). In other words, when a child brings home a report card full of C’s in Arlington, parents are supposed to feel encouraged about what their child is learning.

Superintendent Patrick Murphy received a “C” average from school staff in the latest APS community survey for his job performance. If he were back in elementary school, it sounds like school staff believe he is performing at grade level, but not exceeding it.

The schools did receive a “B” overall from school staff, with a similar grade coming from students. And, 90 percent of parents rated the schools as an “A” or “B”.

Why not higher scores?

Education is important to us. Arlington is full of overachievers when it comes to education. We rank at or near the top of lists of the most well-educated or most well-read. We are naturally tough graders.

The community has been willing to fund, if not overfund, our schools. The survey itself was fielded in the spring, which was before Murphy shook the couch cushions to find enough money left over from last year’s budget to buy MacBook Air computers for some students.

In fact, college-level tuition is available to Murphy and the School Board for each child, and Arlington’s tax revenue climbs consistently year over year. Murphy and the School Board are never faced with the really hard fiscal choices that faced so many school systems across America.

The future does not get easier for Mr. Murphy and the Board. APS is experiencing levels of enrollment which necessitates finding seats for new students; trailers continue to roll onto green spaces; and, we hear about unaccompanied minors from our southern border arriving in our schools. When you have to add seats, it means financing new school buildings and navigating controversial decisions about where those buildings will go.

But, what happens inside the classroom to educate our children is ultimately more important than what building they are in or where it is located. With more than adequate resources available in a highly educated community, expectations are going to be understandably high. We expect our schools to deliver for our students. And, in the Arlington Way, we will expect decisions to be made after extensive community input.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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